Fort Dorchester repeats as state hockey champion

  • Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fort Dorchester’s Patrick McCardle tries to slip a shot past North Greenville goalie Coleman Schmerbeck. ROGER LEE/JOURNAL SCENE

The Fort Dorchester Hockey Club scored two goals in the final period Sunday at the Carolina Ice Palace to defeat Greenville North 2-1 and claim its third state championship in the past four years.
The 2013 South Carolina Scholastic Hockey Association Championship Game was highly contested which was exactly what fans expected from the two teams that led the standings all season. After two periods of spirited yet scoreless hockey, the Patriots received third-period goals from junior Dylan Belida and senior alternate captain Justin LeBlanc and then held off a G-Force North squad that fought until the end.
“We demonstrated great teamwork and effort today,” LeBlanc said. “When it comes to the championship game you have to want it and you have to play with heart. You have to put everything on the table.”
With freshman Ean Hickam in the net, the Patriots’ defense was stiff from start to finish. However, Greenville North also defended its goal well.
In the first period Fort Dorchester took nine shots on goal to Greenville’s eight. Oddly enough, one of the Patriots’ best scoring opportunities came when the G-Force was on a 5-on-3 power play.
LeBlanc made a steal on the Fort side of the rink and darted up the ice for a one-on-one with Greenville goalie Coleman Schmerbeck. LeBlanc got off a clean shot, but it deflected off the right post of the goal. The Patriots managed to return to full strength unscathed so there was still no score entering the second period.
The Patriots outshot the G-men nine to four in the second, but to no avail. One of the Fort’s best chances of the period came just inside the 10-minute mark when senior Patrick McCardle caught Schmerbeck in an awkward position and got off a shot, but Schmerbeck recovered to make the save.
The stalemate was finally broke three minutes into the final period when Belida received a pass in front of the goal, slid left and fired the puck into the net. LeBlanc and junior Brandon Doss both had an assist on the play.
Roughly three minutes later, LeBlanc scored a power-play goal with assists from sophomore Chandler Murphy and Doss for a 2-0 Patriots’ lead.
But Greenville didn’t stop fighting. Roughly two minutes later, Dallas Evans scored with an assist from Sawyer Caldwell to cut the lead in half.
A Patriot penalty with 4:15 remaining resulted in a couple of hairy minutes for Fort fans, but the Patriots managed to weather several Greenville shots despite being shorthanded.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Greenville remained in attack mode after the Patriots’ returned to full strength but in the final two minutes Fort captain Julian DiPaolo and Doss made some key defensive plays to keep the puck away from the Patriot net. DiPaolo thwarted the G-Forces’ best shot opportunity in the closing minutes and Doss trapped a Greenville player with the puck against the boards to chew up valuable seconds.
“Today is probably the best experience I’ve had as a hockey player,” DiPaolo said. “It was special being able to win it in front of our fans because we have great fans.”
Sunday marked the third time in the past four years that Fort Dorchester and Greenville have met in the state championship game. In 2011 Greenville won 4-3 and in 2010 Fort Dorchester won. Last year, the Patriots defeated Bishop England/Porter Gaud in the title game.
“We played them in the finals my freshman and sophomore years and those were both tough games,” DiPaolo said. “They have pretty much been our top rival every year.”
He attributes the Patriots’ recent success to teamwork.
“We all work well together,” he said. “We move the puck really well and we understand it’s not about any one player it takes everyone on the ice working hard together.”
The Fort finishes this season with a 15-2 record and as both the 2012-13 Season Champion and 2012-13 State Champion while Greenville North finishes at 13-3 and as the runner-up in both categories. As the state champion, the Patriots will represent South Carolina at the 2013 USA Hockey High School Nationals.
The Patriots have won the season title five times (2013, 2011, 2010, 2005 and 2004) since the association first started hosting games in 2002.
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or rlee@journalscene.com

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